The stars of Canadian comedy horror Here for Blood, directed by Daniel Turres, had a great laugh making this wonderfully gory flick, and it seems audiences at Glasgow's Frightfest will too. With palpable chemistry, practical effects galore, and some hilarious, campy fights, Here for Blood is definitely one to catch. Filmhounds spoke to stars Shawn Roberts and Joelle Farrow about the film ahead of its UK premiere, where they play a couple who are forced to fight for their lives when the home of the kid they are babysitting is under attack from strange, masked, not-quite-people, an interesting combination of Army of Darkness and Home Alone, Shawn and Joelle discuss their inspirations for the characters, working with the cast at 2am, going against the grain, and their favourite horror films.
What drew you both to this project and to your characters? Did you know the director or the writers at all?
Joelle: I didn't know Daniel or James at first, I auditioned through tape. I've always wanted to do a horror and the fact that Here for Blood married both horror and comedy was something that I thought they did so well when I read the script. I really thought my character was fun. She is kind of the straight-laced character, very type A, and wouldn't hurt a fly, but is thrown into this crazy situation. I thought that was cool to be able to find that. I knew Shawn was attached to the project from my callback or something like that, and I was really excited and thought “I would love to work with him!” So that was another draw to the project. But I think the horror and comedy mashup was really, really intriguing.
Shawn: Being in the industry in Ontario, it's a small community, so word gets around, and funnily enough, a friend of mine, Carlos, who runs The Butcher Shop effects studio here in Hamilton, mentioned that there was a movie going on that might be good for a physical kind of guy. I was like, “well, I'm interested, tell me more. Who do I talk to?” So then I got in touch with James and Daniel and they sent the script over and I said, “Well, are you inside of my head? Because half of these things I would like to say myself” it was amazing. After the first read it was like, “Okay, how do we make this happen?” And then everybody hold on tight because here we go! It's gonna be a crazy couple of weeks!
How did filming a comedy horror compare to past projects for you?
Joelle: I had never done a horror before, it was a new experience, and it was basically all night shoots. So we were sleeping during the day and working during nights. So it was good to have an incredible cast to keep the energy up, and it was so different.
Shawn: I think we got lucky because our days were generally not 12 to 15 hours, so that was nice. I don't know if it was a blessing or a curse, but some of our crew members also had day jobs so once we hit two o'clock, everybody starts hitting a wall because they've got work in the morning. It was incredible. The film that we ended up with for how much time we spent there, I was really impressed with how the boys put it together. I have to give a big shout-out to our cast for maintaining energy. Sometimes when you're doing lower-budget films, there are some things that leave questions and doubts in your mind and you're like, “okay, what are we doing here? Is this going to be the thing that ends my career?” But everybody had fun, everybody kept engaged, and I think that the biggest thing is that everybody as far as the cast and crew were committed to the film. If I could do it again, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
How was working with her working with a child actress, especially on a horror, and how was the rest of the cast?
Joelle: She is such a trooper, Maya was so much fun. She was incredible to work with. She became my best friend on that shoot, she would teach us TikTok dances to keep the energy up in the mornings. So she was the one that was having fun in the early hours. I really do think that she made a lot of those days what they were, just because of her energy and positive outlook.
Shawn: We were certainly blessed with a talent in casting the little girl. There's an old adage they tell you about working in television and film, which is to avoid working with children and animals. Sometimes they're absolutely right, but we got so blessed. I could tell when we did the read-through that, unless something came out of the closet that was just unexpected, we got so lucky with Maya. She was professional, she was funny, and one of the hardest things for children is to get comedy and she got it. When we're not stressed out about how many hours we can work with a child and being very sensitive on set about it, it really allows for more creativity and flow for people to have a good time. I mean, sure, it's a horror, but it's also a comedy, so we're here to have a good time, and we certainly did.
Was finding the balance of comedy in this film difficult or do you think it came easily having read the script and bouncing off the other actors?
Joelle: Once I started reading it out loud with the other actors I could find that rhythm, especially with Shawn, and find those comedy and humour moments together. I think I struggled with it a little bit more just because my character isn't one of those big characters, she's there to keep everything under control, her mama bear instincts come out during it and she is just so focused on protecting Grace and getting out of there. I think I struggled a little bit more with that comedy for balance. But there were so many other characters, everybody brought their own thing to it. There are such big personalities in each character that I think it all blended together quite nicely.
Shawn: There was a moment there on day one when we were shooting the scene of the demon coming through the gate, and we were all kind of looking at each other wondering “is this just ridiculous, is this too far? What is going to happen here?” Obviously, there are no special effects, there's nothing going on and it's just a bunch of silly actors. When everybody commits to it then it makes that make-believe world real. I think as we got a chance to get a feel for everybody's place in the film everybody did a perfect job, it was awesome.
Were most of the effects in the film practical?
Joelle: I was covered in blood, covered. It was crazy, I was washing blood out of my hair for weeks after. There weren't a ton of effects added after.
Shawn: All the blood was definitely practical. I think we set a record, at least for some of the London crew, for how much blood we used. The special effects added when the world is sort of twisting and the door is moving really added a different dimension than the little billows of smoke that we saw wafting through the air. When we were filming I thought “I don't know. I'm not feeling it, but I'm not seeing it through the lens.” At that point you just got to give your faith and trust over to your director and be like “okay, I trust your vision. And let's go for it, man.”
Are you guys both horror fans? Do you have a favourite horror movie?
Joelle: I'm such a scaredy cat, I'm not gonna lie. I do enjoy them because I enjoy the thrill. I loved Get Out, I was terrified but loved it. So that would be my number one right now. I started the show The Last of Us, which some people may say, isn't that scary, but I feel pretty scared during it. So those are my top two.
Shawn: I grew up with some older siblings, so I spent many evenings terrified peeking through the railing on the stairs watching movies. I was intrigued by horror films and how they could elicit a response in somebody based on something on a screen that you know isn't real. But wow, it's effective. As a kid, I grew up watching every horror movie that came out. I don't know if you could tell, but Army of Darkness was probably one of my favourites, and still is. I was happy to see that we could steal a couple of moments and pay homage to it. Current movies? I don't know, I haven't been to a theatre in at least three years.
Joelle: Oh, my gosh, we have to change that. We're going to see a horror movie.
I thought of The Evil Dead a lot of watching Here For Blood. Were there any particular films or characters, that inspired elements of your characters for you, or that you think of when you think of the film?
Shawn: Yes, for me, in the environment that we are currently existing in, it almost felt like the antihero because it's not very politically correct some of the activities that we are partaking in, and I liked that! Going against the grain! I was really drawn into some of these things, like “I don't know if you should say that.” Oh, well, we are saying it! Not only that, we're gonna sacrifice a child! How about that? I can't draw on any specific examples, I have to just really give my respect to James Roberts, the writer, and his storytelling. I had no doubts going into it. I was excited to see how they were going to do certain elements of fight scenes and whatnot, but just from that first reading of the script I saw the movie and I was like “Yes! I am in, this is the kind of movie that needs to be made. It's been a while.”
Joelle: I remember there was one moment during filming where I am just covered head to toe in blood, and the rest of the night everyone was like “Carrie! That's what that is!” I was like “I'm gonna take that inspo for the rest of the shoot.”
Something that struck me was that your characters are very different, but there's still great chemistry between them, how was it finding that chemistry in such different characters?
Shawn: It came very naturally, the environment sets certain things up. For example, the world is in a pandemic, but we're blessed to have a job. We're doing a scary horror movie, but there's comedy in it. We're being put on location away from our lives and family, and we're building this small world. So it's, it's incredibly important to make the effort to create a bond as soon as possible so that at least something's real there. I find that a lot of actors sometimes can't get into their genuine selves, and just be honest, be open. The moment Joelle showed up I was like, “okay, I'm impressed. Who is this chick? I better bring my A game.” Even at times when I would fuck up, she would be there to save me. I was like “I'm grateful for you, at least you have my back.” We're on the same path in life, and we share more or less the same dream, so it's easy to find your likeness in chemistry with somebody who gets your struggles.
Joelle: I completely agree, it came naturally. I actually remember an incident specifically. We did some of the scenes where he and I were in the apartment in the earlier days, which was kind of nice because we were able to build that bond. But there was a day when we were in the house, and it had been a really long night, and I was overthinking, but Shawn completely had my back, and it was really cool to watch you being so experienced. Being in this industry for so long, you were so professional and it was great to be able to watch how you handled certain situations. That allowed me to kind of take on what I see him doing and try to do the same thing. We really had each other's backs, and the chemistry there was just immediate, like as soon as we started doing the scenes and running it back and forth. It was natural. He's so talented, it felt conversational and easy. The casting got lucky.
Here for Blood is screening at Frightfest in Glasgow on March 11th 2023